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New York City needs Manhattan congestion fees to start “as fast as humanly possible,” Mayor Bill de Blasio declared Tuesday — even as the MTA has yet to provide a timeline for the long-planned, long-delayed toll program.
“I want to see congestion pricing start as quickly as possible,” Hizzoner told reporters during his daily press briefing. “I want it to be as fast as humanly possible.”
Tolls on auto travel in the Manhattan “Central Business District” below 60th Street were scheduled to launch at the start of this year, after being passed by the state in 2019.
But the Trump administration declined to green-light the program — delaying New York’s plans just as the MTA began work on the $51.5 billion plan for needed subway and commuter rail improvements the tolls were created to fund.
Transit leaders, who answer to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have not given a timeline for the tolls, which should raise $15 billion for mass transit over four years.
MTA CFO Bob Foran indicated last month that the authority is in no rush to get the program off the ground.
“Right now we’re fronting the capital program with the sales tax monies that we have and the mansion tax monies that we have,” Foran told the MTA board.
“We’re not in a position now to really to be needing, absolutely, at this point in time, the congestion pricing proceeds for the capital program.”
But de Blasio and his likely successor, Eric Adams, disagree. In a tweet last week, Adams pointed to massive subway floods as a reason why “we need congestion pricing $ ASAP.”
For his part, de Blasio said Tuesday that tolls will be essential to get commuters out of cars and onto trains and buses after fears of COVID-19 decimated transit ridership.
“I think it’d be tremendously helpful at this point — reducing congestion, obviously people turned back to their cars intensely during COVID,” he said. “We need to get people back into mass transit and we need the support for mass transit.”
Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein agreed but also noted there could be more delays out of New York’s control, like the one during the Trump administration.
“The delay in federal approval shows the state can’t control every part of the process and shouldn’t clutter it with artificial timelines or roadblocks,” Pearlstein said.
“The sooner the governor starts congestion pricing, the sooner millions of riders will enjoy reliable, accessible, and more weather-proof subway service.”
An MTA rep said the authority plans to do “robust public outreach” before enacting the tolls.
“The Central Business District Tolling Program project was delayed by the previous federal administration. On March 30, 2021, the Biden administration directed us to conduct an Environmental Assessment process with robust public outreach,” said the spokesman, Ken Lovett.
“We are early into that process and working closely with the Federal Highway Administration and our partners at NYCDOT and NYSDOT to make sure this important project can be implemented as soon as possible.”
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